Mayor-elect Esther Manheimer giving her victory speech. Photo by Nick King.
With all precincts reporting, turnout in the Nov. 5 city of Asheville elections was low, but the results were decisive. Vice Mayor Esther Manheimer defeated former city risk manager John Miall by a considerable margin to become the next mayor.
Former Coleman CEO Gwen Wisler, along with incumbents Gordon Smith and Cecil Bothwell, also won Asheville City Council seats by a large number of votes, easily beating former police officer Mike Lanning and community activist Jonathan Wainscott.
“This election is about this community, and that’s what really matters,” Manheimer told supporters at the Altamont Theater. “Asheville is truly representative of the struggle this state is currently experiencing. It is our duty as a community to help lead our state in the right direction.”
In particular, she said she’d emphasize issues of equity and the environment. Talking to Xpress, Manheimer praised outgoing Mayor Terry Bellamy as “excellent,” but said that Asheville has changed a great deal during Bellamy’s time in office. With the city still coming out of the recession, Manheimer added, she believes that good jobs are a greater priority now than eight years ago.
She added that her administration would strive to “continue to maintain Asheville’s fiscal strength” and that in the first year, she saw a lot of planning by Council on issues such as economic development and relations with the legislature in Raleigh, which have often been hostile.
“We have an electorate that respects well-thought-out planning policies,” Manheimer said, hoping that in the future, Council’s plans will anticipate more of the city’s needs in advance.
Over at Pack’s Tavern, Wisler enjoyed a bite to eat with some of her supporters. She proclaimed she felt “fabulous” about the results, and interpreted them as a show of support for the current government.
“The voters are saying that the city’s direction is correct,” she told Xpress. “I’d like to focus on continuing to shore up the fiscal situation and tighten up our plans so that they’re a little more actionable.”
Specifically, she wants to see definite target numbers for city priorities so that the government can better assess if its goals are being met.
Sipping a beer at the Asheville Brewing Company, Smith told Xpress that in the first year of his next term, he hopes to make the city’s economic incentives friendlier for small business, set a goal of creating a specific number of affordable housing units per year and increase investment in transportation.
“We have to raise the median wage in Asheville,” he said. “As a whole what I’m hoping that will do is provide pathways out of poverty and grow Asheville’s middle class.”
In the game room at Asheville Pizza and Brewing, Bothwell leaned close to talk to supporters and listen to their thoughts about the evening’s results and the issues facing Council. He told Xpress that he was disappointed by the turnout, and thought that “the push on social media would have generated a bigger turnout.” He added, however, that he was happy to gain another term and attributed his third-place finish to the fact that “if you push for change, you don’t please everyone.”
In his second term, he said he’ll focus on energy savings, increased recycling and transit improvements.
This year 15,720 voters cast their ballots in Buncombe County, for a turnout of 19.19 percent, though that figure includes voters in several smaller municipal races besides Asheville’s.
With all precincts reporting, the results for this year’s Asheville city elections are as follows:
Esther Manheimer — 8,341 — 68.3 percent
John Miall — 3,790 — 31 percent
Asheville City Council (three seats)
Gwen Wisler — 9,136 — 28 percent
Gordon Smith — 8,936 — 27.4 percent
Cecil Bothwell — 8,161 — 25 percent
Mike Lanning — 3,503 — 10.7 percent
Jonathan Wainscott — 2,641 — 8.1 percent